Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Belfast, bursting with nightlife

Belfast was once a no-go area after dark but, as Maureen Coleman reports, the city will be a hub for bustling nightlife over the next few weeks

Take That begin their Beautiful World tour at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast
Take That begin their Beautiful World tour at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast

Tomorrow night Take That begin their Beautiful World tour at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Not only does the highly anticipated show mark the start of the band's five night run in Belfast - their only Irish dates this time - but it also kicks off a hectic period of festivals, fashion shows and rock concerts for the city.

As the nights draw in, the once deserted streets of Belfast city will be hiving with punters heading to pubs, clubs, concert venues and sports stadiums.

It's a far cry from the dark days of the Troubles when a big name act visiting these shores was a rarity and the city centre was a ghost town when twilight fell.

But Belfast has emerged from the shadows and is now as exciting and thriving a city as Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin or Liverpool.

Where once it was nigh impossible to attract top acts to Belfast, now they're banging down the doors to play our venues.

Take That arrived in Belfast on Monday evening to set up and rehearse for their forthcoming tour.

According to Rob Vick of the Odyssey Arena, it's not unusual for acts to kick off their tours in the city. Earlier this year superstar Justin Timberlake chose Belfast to get his FutureSex/LoveSounds tour under way while pop groups such as Westlife have also started their tours at the Odyssey.

"There's something about Belfast that people want to start their tours here," he said.

"It's great for the Odyssey, great for Belfast that an act of Take That's calibre have chosen here to kickstart their tour.

"They're using our facilities to rehearse and we're delighted to have them.

" We're expecting a lot of international Press here to cover their opening night as well."

Also lined up to play Belfast over the next few months are acts like Rod Stewart, Enrique Iglesias, My Chemical Romance, The Verve, Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen and 50 Cent.

This year's Belfast Festival at Queen's also boasts an impressive line-up, with many highlights including performances of Macbeth in Crumlin Road gaol, an opening show featuring the music of Northern Ireland's main cultural traditions and Fringe First award winner, Truth In Translation.

Graeme Farrow, festival director, says: "There's never been a more exciting opportunity for Belfast Festival at Queen's to contribute towards and capitalise on the amazing transformation that Belfast is undergoing."

Away from the arts, Belfast is also gearing up for two massive fashion extravaganzas, running within a week of each other.

First up, Fall For Fashion, a two-day showcase of local and designer fashions, will take place at St George's Market on October 23 and 24.

The event marries fashion with rock and features music from local acts Kharma 45 and Conor McCullough.

Then from November 1, it's the turn of FashionWeek Belfast, which will take place at the Grand Opera House.

Thousands of Belfast's fashionistas are expected to pack into both venues to see what's hot and what's not for next season and the organisers of the two events are hoping to show that Belfast is as stylish a city as its European counterparts.

For those not interested in music or fashion, there's always football.

Northern Ireland are back on home soil, playing Denmark in a European Championship qualifier on November 17 - and the game is expected to be a sell-out.

Then there's the fact that the city has provided the backdrop for some pretty major movies recently, including Lord Attenborough's Closing The Ring and the Tom Hanks backed film City of Ember, not to mention the number of Hollywood A-listers who have been spotted out and about around Belfast this summer.

A source on the movie City of Ember said: "Bill Murray and Tim Robbins (stars of the film) absolutely fell in love with Belfast.

"They were here for a few months shooting the movie and couldn't get over how friendly the place was."

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